The chase began around 7:35 a.m. after a good Samaritan called police to report the stolen vehicle, a black Lincoln Navigator that belongs to an Arcadia mortuary. The pursuit ended about 15 minutes later after the three-vehicle collision on the 110 Freeway near Vernon Avenue, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Police said a casket and body were found inside the vehicle after the chase.
A suspect was in custody, identified as 25-year-old James Juarez, for felony grand theft auto. He was being held on $35,000 bail.
Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies began searching for the hearse after it was stolen from outside St. Anthony's Church on Rosemead Boulevard in Pasadena just after 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
UPDATE— LA County Sheriffs (@LASDHQ) February 27, 2020
This is what we can confirm.
-The Black Navigator is the stolen vehicle involved in the grand theft auto from last night.
-There is one suspect in custody
-One casket with one deceased has been located inside the vehicle pic.twitter.com/JRrKRqYnyv
St. Anthony Greek Orthodox Church was holding a prayer service called a Trisagion Wednesday evening, often held the night before a funeral in the Greek Orthodox tradition. A funeral was scheduled for the following morning.
Officials, however, say the woman's body that was stolen was not associated with the service, but was in a mortuary vehicle that happened to be stopping by the church at the same time. The mortuary attendant was bringing a body inside the church, while another was in the vehicle that was left parked outside.
It is believed the key was left in the ignition of the SUV.